Jack Nicklaus reflects on Nelson Mandela

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions—first through my long-time friend Gary Player and later because of my son, Gary. I remember once I was at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg, watching Gary play in the South African Open. Mr. Mandela had heard I was there to support my son, and he wanted to come out. He appeared from nowhere on the 14th or 15th tee to just say hello, which I thought was very nice.

At each of the opportunities we met, I found him to be such a very pleasant, engaging man, and I truly enjoyed his company. I think what he did for South Africa, his role in abolishing Apartheid, and the way that he handled his imprisonment without vindictiveness, just reinforced what a great, great man he was. He always had this remarkable way of making you feel as if it is special for him to meet you. I believe that is what great people do. I always become very interested, if not excited, when afforded the opportunity to meet someone who has been a leader and has accomplished things that nobody else has or perhaps can accomplish. That is what it was like meeting Mr. Mandela. I thought he was a very special man.

We have seen often in the last day the quote from Mr. Mandela, where he references the power of sport. To paraphrase, he said that sport has the power to change the world; the power to inspire; the power to unite people in a way that little else does; and that sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. I think today many of us can look back on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and say the same thing about the power of this one great man.